As a spiritual writer or speaker, you have probably read or heard the word “Platform” thrown around like alms-for-the-poor. Does this sound familiar? “Everyone needs to build their platform.” “Buy this, or do that to increase your platform’s reach for success.” “What can you do to reach your platform?” “As an author, you need this platform, but speakers need that one.”
At the last Writer’s Convention I attended, these questions and statements were being offered to the audience as if the audience knew exactly what the guest-speaker was saying. The woman beside me leaned over and said, “Author Platform-Speaker Platform- Social Media Platform! Do you know what he’s talking about? What’s a platform?”
Does One Platform Fit All or Are There Different Platforms for Different Needs?
What is an Author Platform? Do You Need One? And how is it different from a Speaker’s Platform or a Social Media Platform?
There is only one definition for platform, but within that definition are secondary explanations. Let us start by understanding the concept of Platform by listing its most basic definition and then see how that definition has morphed into different types of platforms and their sub-categories.
Here is Webster’s Dictionary definition of Platform.
1: plan, design. 2: a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands especially: a declaration of principles and policies adopted by a political party or a candidate. 3a(1): a usually raised horizontal flat surface especially: a raised flooring.
A platform in its most basic level (no pun intended) is something on which other things are built. It is the rock bottom floor of everything. If the platform is for a high-rise building, it is the cement floor of the rock bottom floor.
If the platform is for an idea, it is the ideals for which that idea stands- the rock bottom concept.
All the other platforms we hear and read about are built on this concept of the bottom level.
No matter the type of platform, ideal or physical, it must be strong enough to stand on, literally or figuratively, by a group.
Social media has made the figurative platform of the audience for authors/speakers easier to build and reach than ever before in history. One of the first things a publisher or event planner will want to know is if you are able to reach your Audience Platform.
An Audience Platform is user-based. Your Audience Platform is the answer to the question, “Who would be interested in my message?” If your platform or message is based on UFO research on abductees, your Audience Platform will be UFOlogists. If your Platform or underlying message is about current trends in childrearing, your platform will be parents, and people interested in modern parenting. One way to reach your audience platform is through Social Media.
A Social Media Platform is any social media-related service, application or “platform” including those provided by Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or any of their respective services. This reach is measured by social interaction that includes likes, follows, shares, messages, and contacts.
A Writer/Author Platform is your visibility as an author, and one of the most challenging concepts to explain, partly because everyone defines it a little differently. Here are 3 definitions.
1: an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.
2: your personal ability to sell books through any of the social media outlets listed in the previous Social Media Platform definition, including private and public blogs, and additional social/personal networks such as online magazines, and websites you can utilize to sell your books to your Audience Platform.
3: an Author Platform is also referred to as a Media Platform- an established media forum through which an author connects to his or her audience to promote their book in the marketplace to create sales-momentum at and after publication.
The definition of platform, broken down, is your personal ability to sell/connect.
A question often asked of me by my clients is, “Should I build my social media platform first or my author platform first. I find that question similar to the riddle, “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Why not imagine them existing together, simultaneously, and growing together?
And then there are my favorite questions, “Who cares? Why do we need either?” Great question! The short answer is, “If you are an author with the goal of selling your books to the public as an Indi-Author on-line on Amazon or from your website you need to know how to attract your audience who is looking for you. If your goal is to be conventionally published and pan to query agents or publishers, big defined platforms attract literary agents and publishers.
Agents and Book Publishers Like Big Platforms
Author/Speakers who can bring viewers/followers/fans through a TV show or readers through a popular blog/magazine have a professional edge. Authors/Speakers with a large platform of one kind or another appeal to publishers and agents. An author with an established audience assures that booksellers will take notice of the book, that the book will likely get media attention because audience feeds more audience, and that there are likely fans who will immediately buy the book—all good for the publishing business. For that reason, literary agents, book editors, and publishers look at the size of an author’s platform when considering a prospective author’s manuscript or proposal.
Now that you know what a platform is, how can you build one or expand the one you have?
Listed are some types of Author Platforms that can help you get noticed and a TIP for Success.
A Popular Blog – Large readership is key for a publisher to take notice. TIP: This can be accomplished by posting blogs on personal social media pages and Group Pages.
Guest Contributor- to successful websites, blogs, online magazines, periodicals, and TV shows. TIP: By connecting with authors with established platforms, you can build using their building-blocks.
Author Newsletters – regularly scheduled newsletters with loyal subscribers filled with platform-specific information. TIP: Adding your blog Guest Contributor’s link to your Newsletter will help to get it more extensive distribution and new followers.
Speaking Engagements – Speaking Engagements are great platforms because the audience is usually platform-specific and there to hear the speaker/author on their expertise/platform. Therefore, there is often a high book-to-audience member sales ratio. TIP: Use your Blog, Guest Contributors, and Newsletter as keys to network and open the door to Speaking Engagements.
Radio/Video Podcast Show – Popular radio hosts can sell many books. With the market increase in audiobooks, podcasts have become quite popular, and some podcasts are turned into books. Fans love to watch authors on video/audio podcasts. Syndication allows for even broader audience reach. Skype and Zoom make video podcasting easy for targeted audiences. TIP: Use your show as a key to get on other shows by inviting established hosts to your show. Then blog the show and share it in your newsletter and on social media.
Web Series – Writing about how-to to anything-imaginable can attain millions of followers. TIP: Writer about making your platform successful. End each series with a tip for the audience.
Social Media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest—likes/followers numbering in the six- and seven-digits capture a publishers’ attention. TIP: Rather than writing about yourself, write about your subject matter.
Television Show – the Holy Grail of platforms is a popular TV show. Even having a regular guest spot on a television show or News Channel as the “resident expert” raises an author’s profile and boosts their platform. TIP: Local TV Shows are looking for “interesting experts.” Become their resident expert who is “called back’ as a regular expert.
Writer vs. Author. Having a Book Helps Increase an Author’s Platform.
A published book helps to increase the author’s multiple platforms with opportunities to present the work and themselves as an author/speaker/expert in a variety of media. I have had clients ask me, “Will all this work promoting my writing and speaking really help me or is it just a waste of my time? If only 1% of all authors get conventionally published what are the chances of an Indi author like me getting picked up by a publisher? I have heard it is even more difficult than finding an agent and publisher.”
When writing my Memoir, Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing I connected to and continued to build my platform using all the Platform Sources and TIPS shared above, as seen in my Patheos blog Writing Your Spiritual Memoir.
My hard work paid off a few months ago when a well-known publishing company became aware of my Indi-hybrid-book through social media and offered me an Audio Publishing Contract with a nice advance. Suddenly the Conventional Publishing community was pursuing me. No queries. No Book Proposals. No nothing! It felt good. So, to answer my client’s question, “Yes, focused hard work with a purpose does pay.”
Building a platform takes time. Not all of these methods will be of interest or relevance to you. Some may jump out as practical and feasible, while others may not. Choose a few that you already have in place and build on them. Stay focused. Show impressive success in some areas rather than minimal success in all areas. And remember, build a platform that is strong enough to stand on. Yes, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition, but it felt too good to change. Sometimes being a little wrong is so right.
Kathleen (Kat) O’Keefe-Kanavos: aka The Queen of Dreams Syndicated Columnist, PR Guru, VIDEO Podcaster/Radio Show Host Dreaming Healing, 3-time Breast Cancer Survivor, multi award-winning author, and Dream Expert seen on Dr. Oz, DOCTORS, NBC, & CBS. Divine Dreams diagnose her illness. Kat and Duke U Radiologist Dr. Larry Burk co-wrote, (2018 Nautilus Award Winner) Dreams That Can Save Your Life. She’s an Author/Lecturer Keynote who promotes patient advocacy and connecting with Divine-guidance through Dreams. “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is.” Learn more @ www.KathleenOKeefeKanavos.com
Platform | Definition of Platform by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/platform
Why Publishers Want Authors With Platforms. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-an-author-platform-2800074